WND – Revenge of the Florets

November 12, 2009

apricots + cinnamon

Variety is the spice of life, and a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.  These are both useful and true statements, and yet, when I go out for Thai food I always order the Pad Thai, and if I’m out to dinner and there’s duck or lamb on the menu that’s what I’ll be having – in the event that both duck and lamb are on offer I’ll order the one that comes with a fruit sauce.  Given a choice of desserts I’ll always pick the crème brulee, and in an ice cream parlor four times out of five I’ll get the mint chocolate chip ice cream.

On the one hand if there was a quiz show about my life, my eating habits would be an easy category for someone to ace because I’m both boring and consistent.  And, on the other hand, I order these things because I like them and because I don’t make them at home so my desire to change my habits is somewhat limited.  I firmly believe that if you go to a restaurant you should order something that you don’t make yourself.  The point of paying other people to cook for you is to eat food you can’t get at home – okay, and also so that you don’t have to do the dishes afterwards.  I never make duck, my roommate doesn’t really like lamb all that much (neither does most of Dinner), and blow torches scare me.  I do, however, keep clicking on recipes for Pad Thai and evaluating exactly how difficult it would be to find the requisite ingredients.  Possibly at some point in the future I’ll actually make Pad Thai myself and start looking at the rest of the menu in Thai restaurants.

Similarly there are ingredients that will always spark my interest in a recipe – ginger, garlic, dried fruit, cinnamon.  If you show me a recipe that combines all three and can be made in advance I can almost guarantee that I’ll print it out to try.  I ran across this recipe for a chicken tagine while I was idly clicking through the ‘Buzz Box’ on epicurious and it was like a meal designed specifically for me – garlic, ginger, cinnamon, dried apricots, marmalade and it gets better if you make it in advance and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Chicken Tagine with Apricots & Spiced Pine Nuts
Curried Cauliflower

Chicken Tagine with Apricots & Spiced Pine Nuts
(serves 4 – I made a generous 1.5 times the recipe and fed 7 with no leftovers)

The sauce for this is very sweet – the dried apricots cook down to a jammy consistency and combine with the marmalade to make a thick gooey sauce.  Possibly it would be a little less sweet if you could find a really bitter marmalade to use, but I was using the standard store bought variety and that has a lot of sugar in it.  That being said, I don’t think it was a bad thing.  I served it with couscous cooked in chicken stock and with curried cauliflower to balance out the plate and I think the edge of sweet in the sauce worked nicely.

3 lb assorted bone-in chicken parts (if using breasts, cut in half)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large shallots, finely chopped
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp grated peeled ginger
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp sweet paprika
Pinch of saffron threads (optional)
1 cup water
2 Tbsp blood-orange preserves or bitter-orange marmalade
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 thyme sprig
2 cilantro sprigs
6 dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

Tagine Composite
Pat chicken pieces dry and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.   Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers, then brown chicken breasts, skin sides down, without turning, 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Cook shallots in butter (add extra olive oil if the pan looks dry) over medium heat, stirring frequently, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, and paprika and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

Add chicken with any juices from plate, saffron (if using), and ½ tsp salt to shallot mixture and turn chicken to coat. Add water and bring to a boil, covered, then cook at a bare simmer, covered, 30 minutes.

Turn chicken and add orange preserves, cinnamon stick, thyme, cilantro sprigs, and apricots. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer until chicken is very tender, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Remove the chicken from the pot and bring the sauce up to a boil.  Cook until it has reduced to about 1 cup/has reduced to a thick sauce.  Discard herb sprigs and cinnamon stick.  Return chicken to the pot and cook briefly to make sure everything is heated through.  Stir in chopped cilantro if using.

Arrange chicken on a plate and spoon sauce over it.  Sprinkle with spiced nuts.

Spiced Pine Nuts
½ Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne (optional)

Heat oil in a small heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then stir in pine nuts, turmeric, paprika, and cayenne (if using) and cook, stirring frequently, until nuts are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes (watch carefully; they burn easily). Drain on paper towels.


The original recipe called for cutting up a whole chicken and using the parts.  This is always more work than I want to go to.  I used bone-in chicken thighs and bone-in chicken breasts (cut in half).  I had a momentary blank when I was grocery shopping this weekend and forgot that dark meat always stands up to stewing better than white meat does, so next time I think I’d use all bone-in thighs.

I omitted the cilantro because nobody who comes to Dinner likes cilantro, least of all me.  Since the point of the chopped cilantro at the end is for color rather than flavor, I chopped some scallions and scattered them over the top when I served.

I used (unsalted) peanuts instead of pine nuts because one member of Dinner is allergic to nuts and poisoning a guest just seems tacky.

Incidentally, my fingernail beds are still bright yellow from working with the turmeric.

end of dinner

Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Recipe previously given:  Curry Dinner




  1. […] Recipe previously given: Revenge of the Florets […]

  2. […] Recipe previously given:  Revenge of the Florets […]

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